Do Scales Really Matter?

Most students hate playing scales and I can’t say I blame them. They’re boring. Tedious. They don’t actually sound like anything either. So I totally get why students reject them if they can get away with it. As a teacher myself, I often put off teaching scales until the 3rd or 4th lesson. But there is purpose in scales, I promise you!


First of all, they teach you beautiful technique. 


As you play your scales, be mindful of how you hold your fingers. Notice the weight each individual fingertip adds to each individual key. Notice the difference in volume between your 1st and 2nd fingers. When you begin to pay attention, you will be amazed at how different something as simply as finger pressure will make on your music. Play slow. Try to make each finger play with the same weight. After a week, you will notice a difference in your music.


Second, they teach you Theory.


You know. That stuff that’s basically the science behind music? Good music isn’t magic. As much as that may disappoint some of you to read, it’s true. But don’t let that bum you out! Let it free you and liberate you. When you know how good music is made– the chord formulas that are guaranteed to work in a song, the time signatures that will help create the right kind of beat for you tune– it’s a very empowering thing!




Scales – Major, Minor (including Natural, Melodic & Harmonic Minor)  – show you the ins and outs of music composition. They show you which notes will work together in a melody, GUARANTEED. Why is that important, you may ask? Why should you need to know this information when you can just read the notes on a page or mess around until you finally find the melody by ear?


Because, lastly, they make you a quicker and better (re: more efficient) player. 


It’s true. When you already know what notes are in the key of D, and you are playing a song in the key of D, I think it’s pretty obvious you will learn the song faster after you have played the D Major scale every day for a week. And if you want to jam with some friends, all you really need to know is the key of a song in order to join in.



Add that Theory knowledge to your graceful new technique and I’ll bet in just a couple weeks, you will sound as if you have been playing much longer than you have. Try it if you don’t believe me. Subscribe to the blog, because this week, I will start posting videos of the Major scales. If you want to get started now, check out this book here:

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  1. That’s exactly how I see them (as an adult piano student 🙂 ) and even as a child, I have never found them boring. Our piano teacher made the same points: technique, theory (which we dwell on when we analyze the pieces), memory / knowledge. Beautifully working together.

    • Alicia, that’s so cool that you knew from day one what scales are all about! I’d bet money that you play beautifully just by knowing how much you practice scales 🙂

  2. Thanks for posting… I find it helpful when the students also know why they need to play scales… I think “selling” the idea is important. For my students, they feel that putting goals like speed, even fingers, control of dynamics while doing scales and improvising using their knowledge of scales do keep them motivated.

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